Bail re­form is worth it, but only for those ac­cused of non-vi­o­lent crimes

Chicago Sun-Times - - OPINION -

The head­line “Judges are Free­ing More Vi­o­lent Crime Sus­pects on Elec­tronic Mon­i­tor­ing” makes it seem, in our view, as though this pro­gram in par­tic­u­lar and bail re­form in gen­eral are the main driv­ers of vi­o­lent crime lately in Cook County. The ar­ti­cle does state that the aim of bail re­form “was to keep peo­ple who pose lit­tle risk to the pub­lic from lan­guish­ing in jail be­cause they are too poor to make bail.”

The League of Women Vot­ers of Cook County has long sup­ported bail re­form if it is ac­com­plished in a safe and fair man­ner. Judges have a tool, the Pub­lic Safety As­sess­ment, to help them de­cide whether to hold a de­fen­dant in jail or to re­lease him/her. This tool as­signs one score to de­fen­dants for their like­li­hood of re­of­fend­ing and an­other for their like­li­hood of meet­ing all of their court dates. Judges also re­ceive writ­ten re­ports from a pre­trial ser­vices worker that gives fur­ther de­tails for these two scores.

If de­fen­dants re­ceive a score that is not clear-cut, judges can rely on elec­tronic mon­i­tor­ing as a mid­dle ground.

Re­duced or no bail for non-vi­o­lent of­fend­ers who are not deemed a risk to oth­ers and who would most likely re­turn for court hear­ings is ap­pro­pri­ate. The use of elec­tronic mon­i­tor­ing for de­fen­dants who are charged with or have a back­ground of vi­o­lent of­fenses is not ap­pro­pri­ate nor safe for com­mu­ni­ties.

Bail re­form can work, if done cor­rectly.

Jan Gold­berg and Karin Hribar, co-chairs of the Crim­i­nal Jus­tice In­ter­est Group League of Women Vot­ers of Cook County

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